Almost since the beginning of her career at city hall, Donna Iacobellis has helped raise money for the Marguerite Dixon Transition Society every Christmas.
The society runs the Dixon transition house in Burnaby and provides support for women and children who are fleeing violent situations.
Donna, who began working at the front desk of the planning department in 1989 and is now a subdivision technician, became involved with the fundraising efforts in 1990 under the leadership of retired staffer Helen Krenzler.
Helen, Donna and a few other women would meet for lunch and decided to turn their creative talents to good use, Donna says.
The group began creating objects to sell at a Christmas craft sale at city hall, giving the money to the society.
"We started off with crafts, like crocheting while we were having our breaks, and knitting," Donna recalls.
Donna also moved on to painting Christmas decorations, making jelly and baking biscotti, she says. This year, she learned how to quilt from two other employees and made her first quilted Christmas runner.
"We spent a Sunday, and they were teaching me how to put things together and quilt, and I just finished on my lunch hour with the hand-stitching and stuff," she says.
Now, there are about 20 city employees involved in the effort, according to Donna, who took over organizing the fundraiser about five years ago.
"I've got more ladies involved from here. I think that's one thing I do well, is get volunteers," she says.
For one day in November, after Remembrance Day, city staff sell baked goods in the morning and hold a large craft, book and bake sale in the afternoon, Donna says.
Other departments are involved as well, she adds, with one woman from the works yard selling cards, and women from the planning and human resource departments contributing baked goods.
"We all sort of focus on our own things," she explains.
This year, there were two tables of books, donated to the sale by city staff, she adds.
They also hold a spring bake sale and add those funds to the Christmas donation - about $700 to $800, according to Donna, who says the fundraisers can bring in as much as $3,000.
This year, the fundraising efforts were boosted by an anonymous donation of $100, she says, adding she would like to thank the person who gave the money.
Tying it all together is the theme of women helping women.
"The city's involved with the Dixon Transition because we lease the property, so it was something we were aware of," Donna says. "I think each of us in our own lives has had some influence from that - either it's someone you know, or some connection - and we're ladies, and it is mothers and children, usually. And so we just felt the need for that."
Helen, though she is now retired, still crochets, knits and sews items for the sale and comes to help at the annual fundraiser, Donna says, along with two other retired employees.
While organizing 20 employees and planning a large fundraiser might seem like a big job to some, Donna says she doesn't see it that way.
"I don't even think of it as work," she says.
It is just one of the fundraising initiatives that city staff work on, she explains, adding many departments - including planning - adopt families to donate to for the holidays.